La fille de Montreal

21 08 2012

Synopsis: a woman, after having lived in her flat in Montreal for the past 25 years, is forced to move out and find a new place.  Packing all her many, many things in her place brings back memories.

Super awesome things:  I like a (good) Canadian film, and La fille de Montreal certainly feels like a Canadian film.  The location for the film is superb — it really did feel like Ariane’s flat (or more likely, Jeanne Crepeau, the writer/director of the film).  The throwback to old technology, like the original Macintosh computer and the montage of Ariane’s favourite old sounds from old machines, is pretty darn cool.  This not only is cool to watch, but reiterates Ariane’s need to hold on to things, and the change from time.  The apartment is almost a character of its own — a crack in the wall next to the portrait of Ariane’s grandmother; the tiny kitchen; the files and folders and boxes upon boxes of things collected over the years in bookcases.  It amounts to so much, and yet nothing.

Although labeled as a comedic film, there are only a few pockets of really humourous scenes in the film.  Instead, the film focuses on the interplay between Ariane and her two friends, Mireille and Charles, as they help her pack her house.  As well, the housing market in Montreal doesn’t seem to be any better than in Vancouver, where a decent place to live for a decent price can be difficult to come by.  This is suggested with Ariane visiting door after door, saying the same thing: “I’m here for the apartment” to places with “For Rent” signs.  An effective way of conveying info, I think.

A cool thing about this film is that even though there are two gay characters including the main character, it is never an issue nor the main point of the film, and I quite like how normal it felt to the story.

Not so awesome things: although the film never states how long Ariane has to leave (or else I missed it), there really doesn’t seem to be any rush at all.  In fact, the biggest thing the film lacks is any sort of conflict.  At first, there seems to be conflict set-up by her landlord casting her out for his son (and Ariane talks to a lawyer about how to handle the situation legally), but this is never brought up again.  And because of the missing deadline, there is no rush, not to mention no one pressuring her to hurry up.  When Ariane’s friends come by to help her throw out and organize all the stuff in her tiny place, there’s potential conflict between friends (since Ariane seems to be a bit of hoarder, though not as bad as those on the reality TV show), but this too isn’t developed.

Instead, this film is about recollections and memories, about the value of a good home and the things that make a home.  It reminds me of an animated short film, made a few years ago that won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film called La maison en petits cubes.  The short, like La fille de Montreal, has no conflict.  It is about a man’s memories of past houses and his family, which is rendered beautifully.  It doesn’t quite work out as well as in Crepeau’s film, or at least I can’t decide if I like it or not.  I think the difference about these two films is that at in La maison en petits cubes, there isn’t a dull moment — every frame means something.  And given that it’s substantially shorter than La fille, it doesn’t drag.  There are moments and times in La fille when it does drag, when we want Ariane to stop dilly-dallying around and just pack her shit up and get on with her life.  This frustration works against the charm of the film, unfortunately.

Good for watching: for a Canadian feature film night.

Overall: a good, decent Canadian film that subtly incorporates queer characters.

Grade: B-

Grown Up Movie Star

12 09 2011

One of the films I missed at the Queer Film Festival that I wanted to see.

Synopsis:  after the mother of a family leaves, a closeted ex-NHL player father adapts to life in Newfoundland with his two young daughters, one of whom is exploring her sexuality.

Super awesome things: gotta love Canadiana.  The movie is set and made in Newfoundland, and the overall landscape, music, and tone feels genuinely Canadian.  It’s a good feeling.  There’s a ton of conflict in the film, and that is already an understatement.  Ex-NHL hockey player Ray is in the closet, and his torment is played out fairly well, hiding his love interest (the coach/PE teacher at the local high school) from everyone, and even going as far as to not talk to him on the phone.  Tatiana Maslany, who plays Ruby, Ray’s older daughter, and her journey through sexual awakening is also similarly heartfelt and interesting to see where things went.  She embodies teenage angst (perhaps a bit too much?) and Maslany does a great job at portraying a callous and rebellious yet sympathetic character well.

Not so super awesome things: I think most people would agree that Grown Up Movie Star is depressing.  It’s not necessarily the subject matter that is depressing, but that most if not all the characters in the film are angry or miserable most of the time to the point where Newfoundland itself seems bleak and dreary.  Ray is angry at his wife, his children, and his own inability to communicate and relate to them (actor Shawn Doyle shows so much awkwardness when it comes to handling the kids that it works very well); Ruby, is angry at her father for being a hypocrite and the fact that he just doesn’t “get” her.  These two take the dysfunctional family to a whole other level.

As well, the pacing really is a rollercoaster ride; one minute everyone’s yelling and the next, the family is driving along happily on the road.  But these happy moments are quick and fleeting, and when they do happen, it feels odd, as though there must be some sort of sparring match coming because this family shouldn’t be happy.

Lastly, and there will be some spoilers for this, when Ruby begins heading over to her dad’s friend Stuart’s place where he takes pictures of Ruby posing– with clothes on, but still suggestive– you know it’s going to end badly.  And yet, when Stuart finally does take advantage of the teenage Ruby, one can’t help but feel it’s partly her fault as well.  Perhaps it was this past English class and Angela Carter’s view that some women ask for bad things to happen to them, that they are only victims when they choose to victimize themselves.  Ruby probably doesn’t want things to go the way they do with her ‘fake Uncle Stu” but at the same time, she was the one who kept coming over to his place, who wore the sexy clothing he kept for his models, and who kept flirting with him for such a long time that it really wasn’t a big shock when he put finally put the moves on her and she was uncomfortable.  Sure, she’s only a teenager and might not know any better, but that’s not a good enough excuse for me, and in some ways, she was asking for it and I found myself with a lack of sympathy for her.

This is unrelated to the paragraph above, but foreskin tearing?  How do you not feel that?!

Good for watching: when you think you’ve got a f-ed up life and want to know/see that it could be worse.

Overall: despite the bleakness of the film, Grown Up Movie Star presents the overdone subject of family in a different way– albeit with mixed results.

Grade: B-